Maryland: Backbone Mountain (3,360 feet)
Dates: November 30, 2013; May 25, 2019
Distance: 2.2 miles
Elevation: 3,360 feet
Vertical gain: 750 feet
To celebrate her birthday, Raina decided we should hike to the top of Maryland. To make it a party, we brought our families along and made a day of it. It was a beautiful drive through the hills of West Virginia and Maryland, and we found the parking area pretty easily. We had read that it was a short, easy walk to the top, but the snow and the ice made it a bit of a challenge with three young kids in tow.
We met a lot of friendly people along the way, including two brothers who we also saw at Mt. Davis later in the day, and a family from Indiana who was spending the night in DC.
Maryland receives five stars for a nice high point – it featured a monument, a bench, and a mailbox/high point register.
Happy birthday, Raina! What do you want to do next year?
In 2013, the snow surprised us which meant my then 4 year old daughter did not have the appropriate footwear for a successful summit. Having 18 other highpoints under her belt at the beginning of 2019, we decided a fun way to spend Memorial Day weekend would be to get her #19 (Maryland) and 20 (West Virginia).
Karen and I, both training for Rainier, donned our 40+ pound packs and joined forces for a fun day hike together.
Important to note is that the trailhead can be easy to miss. On both visits to this highpoint, I overshot the parking area. Even with one prior visit knowing what to expect, we missed it on the first pass. Parking is on the right shoulder of a one-lane road. The parked cars (if any) may appear to be just that – parked cars, without any affiliation to the trail.
To correctly locate the trailhead, we used the guidance of a hand-drawn map in a highpointers book which noted power lines as a landmark. Passing under the power lines (from Virginia) means you’ve gone too far. Hopefully this note helps future hikers.
On the trail itself, in 2013, our hike required us to rely on cairns and guidance from previous climbers. At two different points, trail intersects with other trails. In both cases, turn left to reach the summit.
Though, a vast improvement since 2013 are trail markings. For about three-quarters of the hike, trees proudly display red blazes to signal your path. A large cairn marks the second decision point at a trail intersection, however, in May, we marched right by it as a result of significantly overgrown vegetation. Our descent (with heavy packs) included a little bit more than the two out and back miles, but it was all in the name of training. So, on the way down, stay alert for the first right hand turn!
At the summit, we again, chatted with other highpointers. In addition to the company, we enjoyed the picnic table and Highpointers bench.
Maryland’s highpoint also offers the opportunity to bag two or three highpoints in one day. On our first trip, we followed up with Pennsylvania; on the second, we carried on to West Virginia. Had we been super aggressive or maybe hadn’t started in Virginia with the intention of a day trip, we could have started at the top or bottom and hit all three.